Behavioural Science Blog

The Science of Human Behaviour

Archive for the ‘Behavioural Regulation’ Category

Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our own decisions?

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Another TED talk about irrational behaviour, sensory illusions and decisions. He sees illusions as a metaphor, saying that something like visual illusions, we all know, also occur in other senses and even higher level thinking.

This is a very interesting, informative and funny talk. Dan Ariely is truely a gifted speaker !

Written by Martin Metzmacher

August 22, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Dissertation: The allures of forbidden food

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We know that dieting often does not work. There are many theories why that is the case, and some people say that it actually does work, but not for everyone. However I believe that we do not know much about dieting, because we have been looking for information in the wrong place. Let’s put up the Behavioural Science goggles and look again!

Putting op the Behavioural Science Goggles and looking at dieting is exactly what Esther Papies did. She looked at dieting from a social-cognitive perspective and found very interesting results that relates dieting to goal conflict / goal activation. In a series of excellent experiments she explores which goals are active in successful and unsuccessful dieters and how these cognitive states can be created, in order to help people lose weight successfully.

Click the link to read (or download) the full dissertation:

by Esther K. Papies

I mostly share my own thoughts and ideas with you. However sometimes I come across people that shine so bright, I just can’t refrain from telling you all about their work. Ester Papies is one of those people. I listened to her talk at the ASPO 2008, where she received the ASPO Dissertation Price, and I really was amazed by her straight line of thinking. My congratulations again and I hope you enjoy her research.

Written by Martin Metzmacher

March 3, 2009 at 11:24 am

Differences in Impulsive Processes

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Imagine walking into a library. All objects in that building are based on the same principle, they all use paper with letters printed on it to deliver a specific message. So should we just put all the books, articles and newspapers on one pile? No – it makes sense to structure the objects according to the topic they deal with (so that books and newspapers about gardening stand close to each other). This additional information helps us to deal with the information presented in a much more efficient way. The same is true for the categorization of automatic processes into meaningful groups.

The model of Strack and Deutsch proposes different levels of the reflective system, like propositional categorization or Noetic decision. The Impulsive system is composed of episodic and semantic links, which they call the “associative store”. It is within this associative store that through perception certain concepts are activated and activation spreads to behaviour schemata, that in turn may be acted upon. These impulsive actions are important, because only they can produce behaviour.

A scientific model is always a simplification of reality. Models that can explain everything are indeed worthless to science. The question then becomes: What is the ultimate goal of our research into behaviour? Do we want to end up with a system that explains behaviour in purely mechanical (biological, chemical, and physical) terms, as sometimes suggested by neuroscience? If that is the case, then we should try to incorporate all automatic effects into one big theory. Yet within such a model it would be hard to generate specific hypotheses to investigate. Taking a smaller concept (such as goals) it is much easier to identify specific automatic behaviour that is connected to it (such as goal activation). The description of the automatic process at hand can therefore be optimized to the specific situation (for example how different goals might interact), which makes it easier to focus on the relevant facts. The hypothesis as proposed by the duality model of Deutsch and Strack can be tested on the theories about automatic effects. Incorporating new knowledge about the processes within the impulsive system can improve those theories, but does not mean we have to take everything into account at the same time.

Written by Martin Metzmacher

February 21, 2008 at 8:33 am